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You won't believe the things that have been used as contraception


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We haven’t always been so clued up about our sexual health, and there are plenty of bizarre contraceptives that we’ve used in the past that sound downright scary, possibly dangerous. 

Here’s round up of the 10 strangest (and in no way recommended!) forms of contraception: 

  1. Thimbles of gold, silver or ivory 

    The modern day cervical cap is not used so much due to more effective methods of contraception becoming available over the years. However, in the 1800s women inserted thimbles made of gold, silver or even ivory up against their cervix to prevent coming into contact with sperm and falling pregnant.

    The down side was that they didn’t often prevent pregnancy AND there was a large risk of infection or vaginal tearing. Best suited for the purpose they were intended; protecting your fingers from pin pricks when sewing!

  2. Intestines 

    The first recorded illustration of a man wearing a condom was allegedly around 3,000 B.C and was King Minos of Crete.

    The legend states that his semen contained serpents and scorpions so he wore a condom of goat bladder to protect his lovers. 

    One of the oldest condoms ever found dates back to the 1600s and was discovered at Dudley Castle in England. There is also a user manual that recommends soaking the intestine condom in milk before use to soften it.

  3. Mercury and Lead 

    Concubines in ancient China reportedly drank lead and mercury in order to remain sterile. Similarly, women during WW1 volunteered at factories that used lead in order to prevent pregnancy.

    There is no known reason why people believed this to be an accurate form of sterilization, but there is evidence to suggest that it caused neurological problems, kidney failure, seizures and even death!

  4. A Honey and Date Tampon 

    Think honey is merely something to add to your porridge or drink with lemon when you feel under the weather? Think again! One of the first ever contraceptive devices was recorded on papyrus in Ancient Egypt around 1550 B.C. The recipe was for a piece of wool moistened with honey, dates and ground acacia and inserted into the vagina before intercourse. Strangely enough, this may have been slightly effective as acacia ferments to create lactic acid, which is now used in various spermicides.

  5. Coca-Cola 

    During the 60s contraception was difficult to come by and was also a taboo subject. To try to counteract unwanted pregnancies, some women would have a vaginal douche with coca-cola (called the “shake and shoot” method).

    They believed the fizzy cola and the carbonic acid, in particular, in it would blast out most of the sperm and kill the rest. In 2008 Harvard Medical School’s birth control lab tested this theory with sperm and four different types of cola. It was suggested that Diet Cola killed all sperm within one minute!

  6. Weasel’s Testicles 

    In medieval times it was thought that tying two weasel testicles, along with a weasel bone, to the thigh of a woman, would prevent pregnancy. Creative, but also nonsensical.

  7. Potato 

    Scarily enough, this is a recent one. A 22-year-old woman from Columbia went to hospital complaining of abdominal pains after her mother recommended inserting a potato inside herself to prevent pregnancy. The potato started to grow roots and had to be surgically removed. Ouch!

  8. Crocodile Dung 

    The Ancient Egyptians came up with several contraception methods, including a pessary made of crocodile dung, honey and sodium carbonate. 

    This was to be mixed together and inserted into the vagina in order to block sperm. Again, crocodile dung is slightly alkaline which makes it similar to modern day spermicides. Who knows if it worked?!

    Getting near a crocodile is dangerous enough, never mind inserting a pessary of its dung inside you!

  9. Beaver Testicles 

    In 16th century Canada, women ground down dried beaver testicles and mixed them with a splash of moonshine to make a heady brew that allegedly prevented conception. There is no evidence that this worked.

  10. Lemon Diaphragm 

    In the 1700s lemons were used as contraception. The shape would act as an affective diaphragm over the cervix and the citric acid supposedly killed the sperm. However, lemon juice can cause internal damage so not such a clever choice after all. 

Find out some things you SHOULD be using for sexual health HERE – and not a beaver testicle in sight!


This post was put together with help from Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL). CNWL offers a range of health services, including three main sexual health clinics in central London.

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